Jamaica eager to expand ties with Belgium, says Johnson Smith

MINISTER of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith says Jamaica is eager to expand economic ties with Belgium and continues to recognise that country’s support for the development of the island’s human capital through the provision of scholarships and training opportunities.

“Jamaica is committed to ensuring that cooperation projects and investment activities yield mutually beneficial results and therefore is eager to expand cooperation with Belgium in several sectors. We look forward to further collaboration in logistics, culture, tourism, investment and education, to name a few,” Johnson Smith said in her address to the Belgian embassy’s King’s Day reception recently.

According to Johnson Smith, Belgium, as one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe, continues to make significant strides in its economic, social and sustainable development.

“On this occasion we pause to acknowledge and celebrate the special bonds of friendship and partnership which have characterised our diplomatic relations over the past 60 years. I am particularly delighted that Belgium has remained a key development partner for Jamaica, contributing significantly to the modernisation of our transportation sector — particularly through the supply of buses to the Jamaica Urban Transit Company and the construction of the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre,” added Johnson Smith.

In his response Hugo Verbist, Belgium’s ambassador to Jamaica, said the relations between the two countries have grown from strength to strength and these have expressed themselves in various fields, politically, economically and culturally.

“Politically, both of our countries are examples of true and functioning democracies in a world where democratic values are increasingly at risk, and we should continue to cherish this as this is something which can never be taken for granted. Jamaica and Belgium are often allies in multilateral fora too, both bilaterally and within the framework of the EU [European Union] and Caricom,” Verbist said.

According to Verbist, Belgium is also looking to work with the Jamaican Government to find ways to finance and implement the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and to deal decisively as a global community with the increasingly devastating effects of climate change.

He added that his country is equally willing to explore opportunities to share well known Belgian expertise regarding offshore wind energy.

“EXMAR, a shipping company specialised in transporting LNG [liquefied natural gas], is working closely together with the Caribbean Maritime University [CMU] to select Jamaican students to work on their ships. EXMAR has been training over 250 graduates from CMU over the past 15 years. Currently, a stable pool of about 100 Jamaicans are working as officers or crew on EXMAR ships,” shared Verbist.

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